Kabul: A water tanker loaded with explosives blew up amid a deafening roar near the German Embassy here on Wednesday, killing at least 80 people, wounding around 350 and causing widespread destruction, authorities said.
The massive explosion, which occurred at 8.22 a.m. during rush hour traffic in downtown Kabul, destroyed at least 50 vehicles and damaged dozens of buildings in a wide area that included embassies and the NATO Resolute Support headquarters.
Afghan and foreign troops rushed to the devastated zone centred around 17th Street Wazir Akbar Khan locality, only to meet with ghastly scenes.
Amid scattered body parts, some badly wounded men and women, their faces dripping with blood, desperately sought help.
A few cars were on fire and a large plume of black smoke rose into the sky.
The Afghan Health Ministry put the number of dead at 80.
Tolo News said most victims were civilians, a large number of them from the Roshan mobile company.
Among the dead was an Afghan journalist from Tolo News, media outlets reported. At least two journalists -- one each from the BBC and 1TV -- were wounded.
Windows in the Indian Embassy were shattered. "By God's grace, Indian Embassy staff are safe," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
The first report said 19 people had been killed but the death toll rose rapidly as ambulances and police vehicles rushed the wounded and the barely alive to hospitals.
Doctors said dozens of the wounded were in critical condition and that the toll was likely to go up.
An Interior Ministry official told Tolo that the killer vehicle was a water tanker which was packed with explosives.
No group has claimed responsibility for the horror.
Last month the Taliban announced the start of a major spring offensive, saying their main target would be foreign forces.
The US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Another 5,000 are from Nato allies.